Officers in King County and elsewhere, including city police, county sheriffs and state patrol are using a new system designed to reduce traffic stop times and eliminate errors in reports.
The new ticketing system allows officers to file citations and collision reports electronically, without ever having to pick up a pen.
Ticketed drivers shouldn't see a big difference in being pulled over, police say. The trooper will scan their vehicle registration and license into the computer as well as the traffic violation and file the ticket wirelessly to the appropriate court. Violators no longer need to sign their citations and will receive printed copies for their records.
Collision reports will be filed in a similar manner with officers being able to create a diagram of the crash using the new computer system outfitted in the vehicle.
The new electronic ticketing and collision reporting system is part of a larger initiative called eTRIP (Electronic Traffic Information Processing). Frustrated by the redundant data entry and numerous inaccuracies of the current paper-based system, a group of state and local agencies created the eTRIP initiative.
"Electronic ticketing is a common-sense program that will improve accuracy and accountability," Gov. Christine Gregoire said. "It allows law enforcement officers to spend more time protecting the public and less time filling out paperwork."
Nearly one million traffic tickets and 160,000 collision reports are processed annually in Washington. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation and a national study, about 10 percent of all tickets and collision reports contain errors. The program is specifically designed to reduce those errors.
"Being able to eliminate that 10 percent of errors that were found in all tickets and collision reports is what we're really going for," said Washington State Patrol Sgt. Monica Hunter. "Accuracy is a big part of what we're trying to accomplish."
"We're not having as much paper work, in the past the officer has had to press hard on their ticket pads to write through five copies with each having to go to a different place." Hunter said. "This new electronic ticketing system is designed to eliminate errors, reduce paperwork and will improve accuracy."
Different agencies will test the system and decide if they want to implement it. It will be up to each individual department as to whether they want to adopt the new system permanently.
"Prior to testing the electronic system, I timed a number of my traffic stops," said Officer David Johansen on the Lacy Police Department. "Electronic ticketing has cut these times by about half, allowing drivers to get back on the road faster."
Chris Madillo from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission says the electronic ticketing also reduces the time an officer has to spend on the shoulder of the road where they're at risk of being struck by a passing car. The information also helps organizations make decisions on roadway improvements as well as collision and fatality accidents.
Study results on the time officers save, as well as the number of errors eliminated is expected at the end of the summer, according to Madillo.